Ascend Fast Tracks Antimicrobial Technology to Counter COVID-19 Shortages

To help guard against the growth of mildew, fungi, and other microbes, Ascend Performance Materials has introduced Acteev Protect, an innovative technology formulated to keep textiles and nonwoven fabrics fresher for longer.

The technology offers protection for face masks, apparel, upholstery, air filters, and more, explained Lu Zhang, PhD, Ascend’s Vice President leading the Acteev launch. “Bacteria, mildew, and other microbes growing on fabrics and filters cause the item to break down, discolor, and give off unpleasant smells,” she said. “Acteev Protect guards against that microbial growth, keeping the articles clean.”

microbe

While the technology has been in development for several years, the recent shortage of microbe-resistant articles prompted Ascend to accelerate the product launch by partnering with independent labs for testing and by re-allocating resources to scale up production. “The current global scarcity of microbe-resistant materials is not going to end unless manufacturers are able to obtain the right media,” said Zhang. “We saw a way we could quickly meet those urgent needs with this innovative technology.”

Acteev Protect combines zinc ion technology with polyamide-based woven, nonwoven, and knit fabrics. The active zinc ions are embedded in the polymer matrix, providing long-lasting solutions that do not wash away, like topical finishes or coatings, said Ascend. The polyamide fabrics are durable yet soft to the skin, and the nonwoven filtration media — available as nanofibers, melt-blown, or spun-bond — efficiently keep out unwanted particles.

The embedded zinc in its ionic form is a powerful inhibitor of bacterial growth, said Vikram Gopal, PhD, Ascend’s Senior Vice President, Technology. “Zinc is an essential element needed for bacterial growth, so bacteria readily allow it inside the cell body,” he explained. “But the zinc ion out-competes other essential elements, such as manganese and magnesium, and chokes their ingestion channels. Without those minerals, the microbes can’t grow or reproduce.”

Gopal noted that while other products use silver as an antimicrobial, that metal comes with unwanted environmental consequences. “Silver is typically used as a finish or a coating, a process that is water-intensive, and the excess silver has to be disposed of, eventually ending up in our waterways,” he said, adding that zinc is designated “generally regarded as safe” by FDA.

Additionally, the fabrics feature all the benefits of premium polyamides, which offer more comfort than polypropylene in single-use masks and allow knits and wovens to be dyed, printed on, and laundered. Also, these features will last the lifetime of the garment. “Because the zinc ions are embedded during the polymerization process, knit and woven articles made with Acteev Protect stand up to 50 washes or more,” commented Harrie Schoots, president-elect of the America Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists and Senior Business Leader of Ascend’s textile business.

Acteev Protect is the company’s first product offering available in ready-to-use fabric form. The company plans to extend the line in the coming months to include polyamide 66 fabrics for medical applications and engineered plastics for high-touch surfaces.

Image: Paulista/Adobe Stock

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